Facebook users join Standing Rock protests over North Dakota Pipeline
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On October 31, 1.4 million people “checked in” to Standing Rock, North Dakota, in order to show support for protests happening over the North Dakota Pipeline. That same day, according to Facebook, a message became widespread on the media platform, stating: “the Morton County Sheriff’s Department has been using Facebook check-ins to find out who is at Standing Rock in order to target them in attempts to disrupt prayer camps.”
The $3.6 billion Pipeline is a project that was set in motion in 2014 in order to transport fuel from North Dakota to Illinois. The point of controversy for many, however, is that the scheduled plans have the pipeline crossing through Standing Rock—a religious site for the Sioux tribe located just outside of the Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. The pipeline would also be traveling underneath the Missouri River, which runs directly under the Sioux reservation and is their primary source of water, Time Magazine reports. Protests have been going on, spearheaded by the Sioux tribe and allies, since 2014, but recently gained public attention in August of 2016.
Developers say that the pipeline will bring 8,000-12,000 jobs to the United States. According to the BBC, it will boost local economies and provide the safest alternative in fuel transport. Dakota Pipeline (or DAPL) protesters have argued that not only is the pipeline uprooting ancient Sioux burial grounds and archaeological sites, but will also cause the Missouri River to become polluted with oil, making it undrinkable. The Sioux tribe has sued the U.S. Army Corps of engineers, specifically, for approving the pipeline. They argue that the Corps failed to acknowledge the objections of Standing Rock Sioux and Yankton Sioux, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The Sioux have explained that the Corps failed to recognize the sovereignty of the Native American Tribe, Indian Country Today reports.
According to a statement sent out by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and recorded by the New York Times, the police do not actually track the protesters via social media. These posts did, however, make a substantially large impact on the publicity of the protests. Following the social media protests, NBC reported President Obama’s comment: “My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans, and I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.” In addition, according to DigitalTrends, more than $1 million have been raised in support in order to provide food and supplies to protesters.
In almost four months of protests over 142 people have been arrested on charges that range from ‘engaging in a riot’ to ‘conspiracy to endanger by fire and explosion.’ It has been reported that both sides are to blame for violent riots. Officers state that protesters have used firebombs and guns against police, while protesters have reported police officers using pepper spray and beanbag rounds to disperse crowds, the New York Times reports.
In light of various allegations, David Archambault II the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux has called for peaceful, active protest, stating: “as American citizens we all have a responsibility to speak for a vision of the future that is safe and productive for our grandchildren.”